Hampton University
Last Large Piece of ATLAS Detector Lowered Underground
03/03/2008 - #52

HU Scientists worked on ATLAS experiment for the past 12 years

Hampton, VA - Researchers at Hampton University along with members of the U.S. ATLAS collaboration joined colleagues around the world to celebrate a pivotal landmark in the construction of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the lowering of the final piece of the ATLAS particle detector into the underground collision hall at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. Experiments conducted at this revolutionary LHC facility, poised to become the world's most powerful particle accelerator, may help scientists unravel some of the deepest mysteries in particle physics. The U.S. branch of the collaboration (U.S. ATLAS), based out of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, built and delivered several key elements of the ATLAS detector.

Of the almost 2,100 participants in the ATLAS collaboration, about 420 are U.S. physicists, engineers, and graduate students. Hailing from 38 universities and four national laboratories, these U.S. collaborators are supported by DOE and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Hampton University has been a part of the ATLAS experiment since 1996. In 1999, HU's ATLAS team began the construction of the ATLAS Barrel Transition Radiation Tracker (TRT) along with other ATLAS institutions. The Barrel TRT was completed and entered into the ATLAS cavern in 2006. The Barrel TRT will track the direction and speed of the particles being studied. Currently, research faculty, graduate students and Dr. Kenneth McFarlane, professor and principal investigator of HU ATLAS, are preparing for the flood of data that will be sent next year.

"CERN is the premier European lab in this type of research," stated McFarlane. "It will be the highest energy facility in the world. HU has been a key player in the ATLAS experiment for 12 years, students and the ATLAS group at HU are excited about being a part of such a pivotal experiment."

The last piece of ATLAS lowered into the ATLAS experimental cavern is one of two elements known as the small wheels. The two ATLAS small wheels, though little in comparison to the rest of the ATLAS detector, are each about 30 feet in diameter and weigh 100 tons. The wheels are covered with sensitive detectors that will be used to identify and measure the momentum of subatomic particles called muons that are created in collisions at the LHC. The entire detector system has an area equal to three football fields, consisting of 100 million independent electronic channels. As charged particles pass through a magnetic field created by superconducting magnets, this detector has the ability to accurately track them to the precision of the width of a human hair.

"This is a remarkable milestone in the complicated construction of the ATLAS detector," said Joseph Dehmer, director of the Physics Division at the NSF. "We are impressed by the hundreds of U.S. university and national laboratory scientists who are working hard to make this extraordinary project a reality."

Brookhaven National Laboratory led the development of the 32 muon detectors in the inner ring of the wheels, working with Stony Brook University, the University of Arizona, and the University of California, Irvine. In addition, numerous U.S. universities built the 64 precision muon chambers on the small wheels.

Experiments at the LHC will allow physicists to take a big leap in their exploration of the universe. The ATLAS detector may help its scientists unravel some of the deepest mysteries in particle physics such as the origin of mass or the identification of dark matter. The ATLAS collaboration will now focus on commissioning the detector in preparation for the start-up of the LHC this summer.

For more information about HU ATLAS visit, http://cosm.hamptonu.edu. For more information about the Global ATLAS experiment visit, http://www.atlas.ch.

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